Federal Government/Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) 2009 Agreement Renegotiation Committee has said that a student loan scheme through an education bank can solve the sector’s funding challenges.
Its chairman, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), said a N1 million per annum students’ loan scheme and, by extension, an education bank, will avail students of loans for their education and other immediate needs.
According to him, the Federal Government could not afford to satisfy university education needs as demanded by striking lecturers, at the detriment of the country’s infrastructure, health, security and other challenges.
Last week, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) commenced a nationwide strike, following lingering funding issues.
ASUU National President Abiodun Ogunyemi said the union took the decision due to the government’s failure to honour a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the union and the Federal Government in 2017.
But Babalakin, who spoke at a news conference in Lagos at the weekend, urged ASUU to return to the negotiation table.
Babalakin dismissed as false the often talked about 26 per cent education funding advice by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
He also debunked allegations that his team suggested a fee hike in universities, explaining that the committee’s scope of work had nothing to do with fees payable in schools.
He said: “We believe that negotiations are best done on the table rather than on the pages of the newspapers.
“Going by the figures provided by ASUU, Nigeria requires over N2 trillion per annum to fund university education. This figure exceeds in value the total amount of money available for all capital projects in Nigeria, including health, infrastructure, security and others.”
Babalakin added: “The National Council of Education appreciates this position and has directed that student loan schemes be set up by the various state governments. It has also supported the idea of an Education Bank which would provide soft loans for students seeking to obtain university education.”
He said claims that “our Committee has proposed N500, 000 per annum as tuition fees to be paid by university undergraduates” or “was planning to impose tuition fees of N350, 000” were false.
He suggested that every student who gains admission to a university and is not able to qualify on merit for the Federal Government’s scholarship should be entitled as of right to obtain a loan from the Education Bank.
“A loan of N1m per annum would be made available to each of such students. N700,000 out of this loan will be paid to the university as tuition fees while the balance will be available to the student as support towards his upkeep allowances.
“Every university will now have the resources it requires to position itself as one of the leading universities in the world within the next 10 years of the operation of this system.
The senior lawyer also observed that funding was not the sector’s only problem. He suggested that universities stop operating as a bureaucracy, while “outstanding performance must be rewarded appropriately by various university councils.”
He also suggested that University Teaching Hospitals must be removed from the control of the Federal Ministry of Health so they can function as they were intended.